New year, new website - we explore what customers should be expecting from their web content
It’s 2019, and things are moving fast – lime scooters, coffee consumption, and the world of website building to name a few.
We all know the feeling of landing on a bad website - it’s clumsy, it’s awkward, it’s too much and too little all at once. You can’t put your finger on why, but it’s a s*** website, and not one any client is looking for from their designer.
There are more than enough like these out there, but we’re in the business of creating great websites - ones that sing, that flow, and that keep pushing the bar higher.
So to get the lowdown on the state of great web design in 2019, we decided to have a chat to Jeremy Johnson, designer and co-founder of website builder, RocketSpark. Their platform allows customers to either build a beautifully simple website themselves, or work with one of their design partners - with the help of the RS customer support team along the way.
According to Jeremy, though the visual standard of websites has improved over the last several years, it’s the change in (and range of) customer expectations that’s really interesting.
“The standard has increased across the internet in general, so clients definitely expect a more beautiful website than maybe what they would’ve in the past, but trends of late are fairly typical of the last few years,” he says.
So, customer expectations. What drives them?
Are they web-savvy?
Jeremy says whether a client has experience working with websites or not makes a big difference to what they expect from the whole process.
“If they’ve had a small business website before, designed one themselves, or been in a company that had a website and edited some of the web content, their expectations are usually quite different to someone who’s never been involved with a website, ever.”
Jeremy says that for people with no experience, expectations around Google rankings and the value they place on quality web content is often a lot lower. He says as well as this, they tend not to understand the connection between content, SEO and customer conversion.
For the Rocketspark team, this is significant when it comes to designing their onboarding programme - in other words, the educational content these customers receive when they first start.
Educating first-time website builders
This variation in web design know-how is worth noting for anyone building a website for a ‘first-timer.’ While these clients may not be aware of the current standard of web content and design, you’ll still want to deliver this standard, and for that the client needs to be on board (and up to speed).
For the Rocketspark team, this means upgrading their onboarding programme to have a combination of hands-on support, help guides, and a welcome for when customers and trialists sign up. The plan is to augment this with extra content if the clients have never had a website before.
A matter of taste
According to Jeremy, so much of what a client expects from their website comes down to their individual perception.
For example, Jeremy says a client who doesn’t value design will have a completely different standard to, say, an architect who designs really beautiful spaces or a chef who designs award-winning cuisine.
According to Jeremy, for those that are really design-conscious, it’s the use of visually engaging images and the way they’re laid out into the design that’s really key.
What else is out there?
We also had a chat to one of RocketSpark’s in-house designers, Natalie Trow. According to Natalie, when someone isn’t a designer, their only reference point is ‘what else is out there’.
“A client will find a competitor’s site that they really like and they come back to us saying, “Can I have something like that,” so this as a whole has lifted the standard of design,” she says. For example, more of a grid-based design layout is becoming quite trendy at the moment.
Jeremy agrees, saying that as the level of the tide is getting higher in terms of design standard, the average expectation is lifted as well.
What do they actually want from their website?
According to Jeremy, one of the biggest determinants of a client’s expectations is really, what’s their goal with a new website.
“For a fine-dining restaurant who’s booked out for a month in advance and winning awards, they’re not looking for more inquiries. For them, it’s about brand-building, so SEO and keyword-rich content isn’t that important to them. But for a builder who’s wanting to actively grow their business and generate as much leads as possible, the expectations are quite different,” he says.
And, according to Jeremy, a lot of this comes down to their client's attitude towards content.
Content: “I’ll do it over the weekend”
“Web content is really one of the biggest things in web design and we see a big spectrum,” Jeremy tells us.
“Some of our clients really ‘get it’ - they see the value in having a decent amount of high quality content. Others don’t value it nearly as much.”
In fact, he says sometimes the team just have to laugh when it comes to customers’ attitudes towards web content. “We get so much of, “I’ll do it over the weekend!”
With the busy business owner trying to do their own content, at least a month or two will go by before they get get something together. According to Jeremy, this is when outsourcing content to the professionals is so valuable.
“The reality is that business owners are too busy, and it’s not their area of expertise, whether they’re a builder, chef or bookkeeper. They’re good at what they do, and writers are good at what they do,” he says.
It’s not just content – a quality website has the whole package
Content, while important, is just one ingredient in a potentially winning (web design) recipe. Understanding all the different elements that go into web design is crucial to bring customer expectations up to speed with the current standard.
According to Jeremy, images are another one of the main elements that customer expectations and attitudes differ on.
“With images, people assume they can grab some stock images and clipart and call it a day. Others get that they need to invest in photography and know the difference that quality, taken-for-purpose images will make to their website,” he says.
As Jeremy says, if your website doesn’t have one of these elements, it can really hinder you. This is where it all comes down to communication with clients - emphasising the importance of all those elements as part of the whole package.
Success in partnership
To both educate their clients on what they should be expecting, and meet their personal standards, RocketSpark offer plenty of options.
One option, which Jeremy says allows their clients’ web content to be taken to the next level, is for them go through the process with one of Rocketspark’s design partners.
“If they go through our partners, they’ll generally recommend a package that includes content written for the client, whether that’s done by the designer or working with another partner. The same goes with recommending a photographer as part of the package,” Jeremy says.
He says that while the majority of their clients opt for DIY, there are a growing number using designers. “Different partners have different strengths and experience, so people can really get a tailored service.”
Let’s work together, folks
His message is pretty clear - when we call on the strengths of everyone involved in website design, clients end up with a full package - high quality web content and high quality images, and ultimately, high quality websites.
Educating your clients and playing to the strengths of everyone involved in web design is key. After all, we all want to end up with a finished product that keeps setting the benchmark high.